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  #1  
Old 11-08-2018, 12:09 PM
Lamoral Lamoral is online now
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Small manual sports car under 5k

I'd like a small roadster to drive, not as my primary car, just as a 'toy.' I would like to spend no more than $5,000. It must be manual, and ideally, convertible. I am willing to accept some rough edges and minor maintenance annoyances. I do not want a money pit. I can accept a small money "hole".

Possible choices:

Toyota MR2

MG

Old Mazda RX-7

Anything else I should be looking into? Am I in fantasy-land hoping to find a decent car like this at my ideal price?
  #2  
Old 11-08-2018, 12:13 PM
DavidwithanR DavidwithanR is offline
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I get the feeling that an old RX-7 is either a great choice or a terrible choice, AND that unfortunately the car gets to decide all by itself which one of the two it's gonna be.
  #3  
Old 11-08-2018, 12:14 PM
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Miata
Is
Always
The
Answer.
  #4  
Old 11-08-2018, 12:19 PM
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I would say that the only correct answer to this question is... Miata. Cheap to buy, cheap to fix, cheap to upgrade. I had one, and despite the fact that I've been fortunate enough to own some really great cars that on paper way outstrip the Miata, it was still probably the most fun car I've had.

As a past owner of multiple RX-7s and a convertible lover, consider that a late 80s 2nd gen soft top RX-7 wouldn't be on any list of things I'd buy. Those are going on 30 years old now. My guess is that an original rotary of that age that hasn't been replaced or rebuilt will be making more smoke than power.

Last edited by Pork Rind; 11-08-2018 at 12:21 PM.
  #5  
Old 11-08-2018, 12:21 PM
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I've only driven one once, but I think that an older Miata may be the answer, as well.

Mazdas are generally pretty reliable cars (issues with Wankels aside), and assuming you can find one in your price range that's in good shape, shouldn't prove to be a money pit.
  #6  
Old 11-08-2018, 12:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Pork Rind View Post
I would say that the only correct answer to this question is... Miata. Cheap to buy, cheap to fix, cheap to upgrade. I had one, and despite the fact that I've been fortunate enough to own some really great cars that on paper way outstrip the Miata, it was still probably the most fun car I've had.

As a past owner of multiple RX-7s and a convertible lover, consider that a late 80s 2nd gen soft top RX-7 wouldn't be on any list of things I'd buy. Those are going on 30 years old now. My guess is that an original rotary of that age that hasn't been replaced or rebuilt will be making more smoke than power.
pardon me sir, are these your apex seals?
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Old 11-08-2018, 12:34 PM
YamatoTwinkie YamatoTwinkie is offline
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In agreement with everyone else here. Your criteria pretty much screams "Miata"
  #8  
Old 11-08-2018, 12:38 PM
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If it was me, I would prefer an MR2 to a Miata. The MR2 is a better looking vehicle, and the mid-engine layout is sweet.

However, I have a feeling the Miata will be newer and have less miles than a comparably priced MR2.
  #9  
Old 11-08-2018, 12:46 PM
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pardon me sir, are these your apex seals?
Well, they were. But now they're just my apex nubs.
  #10  
Old 11-08-2018, 12:51 PM
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If it was me, I would prefer an MR2 to a Miata. The MR2 is a better looking vehicle, and the mid-engine layout is sweet.

However, I have a feeling the Miata will be newer and have less miles than a comparably priced MR2.
I liked the MR2 and in many ways, it bested the Miata's of the time. But having driven both, there's a sense I get that the Miata was the better integrated platform where the MR2 just missed out on some of that watch-like precision the Mazda had.

And if I remember right, the 3rd gen MR2 had no space in the front and not much elsewhere; a big miss if you'd like to maybe go somewhere for a couple of days.
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Old 11-08-2018, 01:16 PM
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Let me throw a total curve ball, and offer up the Corvair.

I didn't make any attempt to identify low cost quality Vairs - but there are a ton of them out there. You can get Corvairs ridiculously inexpensively. I bought a 62 (early model) in really good condition for $2k. Most of the pricier ones will reflect body work and paint. If you can accept something rougher, you can get a solid daily driver well under $5k.

What a fun car to drive, and ridiculously easy to work on yourself. You could tear the whole damn thing apart and put it back together w/ a set of box wrenches and a phillips head screwdriver!

You may prefer either early or late model style. Early model is from 60-64, late model from 65-69. Tons of manuals out there - 4 speed only. Verts will definitely be pricier - and trickier to buy given possible hidden rust issues and the unibody construction. Forget all the Unsafe at Any Speed bullshit - they were no less safe than any other cars at the time (tho all will be less safe than a recent car). And as of (IIRC) 64 they had incredible suspension - shared w/ the Vette.

If safety concerns you, get a hardtop and install shoulder belts (very few came with them - much more complicated to install in a vert.) if you get a 69, you can get a telescoping column and headrests. Tons of parts available. Easy to customize. Tons of space - big trunk in front, and in non-verts, rear seat folds down.

Sure, only 110hp at the pipe, but w/ the rear engine, a slow car that is tons of fun to drive fast! And you can't beat the looks and comments you get driving it around town!
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  #12  
Old 11-08-2018, 01:19 PM
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Yes, the 3rd gen (99-07) would be the MR-2/MR-S to get, as the g1 or g2 are old, hard to find unmolested, and, of course, not convertibles. The 3rd gen flew under the tuner radar but it's incredibly light, dead nuts reliable and has a sweet suspension tuned by Lotus.

That said, you get a small frunk with the MR-S and a cramped engine bay. A 99-05 Miata (NB) would be more practical, but you could probably also get an 06-14 (NC) model in your price range if you looked long enough. The NC is built on a shared platform with the RX-8, so it's a bit heavier for what you get than the NB or the newer ND, but it's still a great car and is much more modern feeling than the NB, which is mechanically almost identical to the very first Miata that rolled out in 1989.
  #13  
Old 11-08-2018, 01:46 PM
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I had a Triumph TR250. Had a straight six, manual trans, with electric overdrive. And it was styling!

I forget the year. It was only made one year. The year before was a TR4, and the year after was the TR6.

Look at a picture of it.
  #14  
Old 11-08-2018, 02:43 PM
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Originally Posted by harmonicamoon View Post
I had a Triumph TR250. Had a straight six, manual trans, with electric overdrive. And it was styling!

I forget the year. It was only made one year. The year before was a TR4, and the year after was the TR6.

Look at a picture of it.
Tis a very pretty car, indeed (pic here). It looks like that one year was 1968.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 11-08-2018 at 02:44 PM.
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Old 11-08-2018, 02:56 PM
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A buddy of mine who had a sweet Mr2 and was a fan of all things Toyota, was a big fan of the Supra. When I casually looked, it seemed you could get them cheap.
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Old 11-08-2018, 03:04 PM
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As long as you have MG on the list, you might consider a 94-98 BMW 3-series convertible. I would think it would be better than an MG in terms of maintenance cost. And one good thing is that the various 3-series share many parts, so you can often find compatible parts in junkyards.
  #17  
Old 11-08-2018, 03:05 PM
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Originally Posted by kenobi 65 View Post
I've only driven one once, but I think that an older Miata may be the answer, as well.

Mazdas are generally pretty reliable cars (issues with Wankels aside), and assuming you can find one in your price range that's in good shape, shouldn't prove to be a money pit.
The Miata is a 4 cylinder, not Wankel. My dad has had a 2002 for about ten years now, no issues at all. Very tossable car, great handling and fun to drive. It still looks great, too, very timeless design.

I had an MR2 Spyder, that was an absolute hoot to drive. Probably more fun than the Miata, but I haven't driven the latter without dad in the car. They definitely stand out, mostly due to their rarity, but IMO they're starting to look a bit dated. I got more comments on that than any other car, and most people wanted to know what model Porsche it was.
  #18  
Old 11-08-2018, 03:34 PM
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The Miata is a 4 cylinder, not Wankel.
Kenobi 65 was referring to Mazda's general pattern of reliability as being good with the exception of the Wankel engines, not suggesting that the Miata had such an engine. It's a callback to OP saying he/she is considering an RX-7 as well.
  #19  
Old 11-08-2018, 03:35 PM
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As long as you have MG on the list, you might consider a 94-98 BMW 3-series convertible. I would think it would be better than an MG in terms of maintenance cost. And one good thing is that the various 3-series share many parts, so you can often find compatible parts in junkyards.
Nowhere near as fun as a toy compared to the Miatas, MR-2s and RX-7s of the world though.
  #20  
Old 11-08-2018, 03:39 PM
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Tis a very pretty car, indeed (pic here). It looks like that one year was 1968.
Thank you for the photo. Brings back good times.

I was traveling over 140 MPH in Nevada. In those days Nevada had no speed limit. That rascal loved the curves. The highway patrol stopped me. Only to say, "I would like nothing better than to scrape you off the pavement".

Didn't think that was a very Christian thing to say.
  #21  
Old 11-08-2018, 03:41 PM
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Kenobi 65 was referring to Mazda's general pattern of reliability as being good with the exception of the Wankel engines, not suggesting that the Miata had such an engine. It's a callback to OP saying he/she is considering an RX-7 as well.
Exactly -- my apologies for sowing any confusion.

I actually considered getting an RX-8 for a hot second, about a decade ago. I had a very high opinion of Mazdas, generally, but I also knew that the rotary engine has always had a checkered reputation.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 11-08-2018 at 03:43 PM.
  #22  
Old 11-08-2018, 03:56 PM
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do the early-plate s2000 Honda's come in at under $5000? I know the very cheapest ones over here in the UK are about £5000
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Old 11-08-2018, 04:04 PM
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do the early-plate s2000 Honda's come in at under $5000? I know the very cheapest ones over here in the UK are about £5000
Hey, I had one of those! Anyway, a quick breeze through Autotrader shows the floor at about $10,000.
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Old 11-08-2018, 04:35 PM
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I love my 1980 Fiat Spider. Kinda hard to find, and not in everybody's comfort zone, but a fine, fun car. I'll give you a good deal on a '78 model.

Quote:
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...you might consider a 94-98 BMW 3-series convertible.
Go earlier! Get the e30 (early to late 80's). Strong straight six, reliable, easy to work on, handle well. One of the best cars ever made, if you ask me. Got three of them, and always keep my eye out for good examples.
  #25  
Old 11-08-2018, 05:17 PM
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do the early-plate s2000 Honda's come in at under $5000? I know the very cheapest ones over here in the UK are about £5000
No, it's tough to find a halfway decent S2000 for under $10k. At $5k, you're probably looking at a salvage title with a lot of issues.
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Old 11-08-2018, 06:52 PM
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Very much not in the price range but my first though was a Sunbeam Tiger. Aside from that a Miata is probably going to be the easiest one to find in decent shape for that price.
  #27  
Old 11-08-2018, 06:54 PM
Textual Innuendo Textual Innuendo is offline
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Yeah, S2000's are right out, which is a shame...BUT, at that price point you can get an older 3.0 BMW Z4 convertible.

All the fun and laser-sharp handling of a Miata, with an extra ~80 horsepower or so. The M54 engine is damn-near indestructible, and is easy to work on. The rest of the car is also easy to work on (bushings are a 2 hour job, front brakes are a 1 hour job, etc), and there's a robust aftermarket for parts. They also look great!

I have one as a "city car" that I don't care if it gets scraped/dinged/whatever and can parallel park in inconceivably tiny spaces, and am pretty happy with it. With the top down and an open on-ramp just begging you to punch it, your heart will sing. :-)
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Old 11-08-2018, 06:57 PM
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BUT, at that price point you can get an older 3.0 BMW Z4 convertible.
The Z4 always looked to me like a Miata that went to the gym and got some additional muscle definition.
  #29  
Old 11-08-2018, 07:29 PM
Wesley Clark Wesley Clark is online now
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FWIW, you can go on sites like autotrader and search for convertables, max price $5000, manual transmission and see what is out there.

I did a quick search, what really cut down the results was the manual transmission. I went from about 50 results to 4 when I picked manual transmission. All that was left were a couple of 2002 BMWs, a saab and some other model.

You may have to drive quite a distance to find one if you don't live near a huge metro area with a giant used car market.
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Old 11-08-2018, 07:48 PM
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Have you considered bikes or trikes?

If you want a toy to vroom & zoom with, the extra weight that comes with a car is not just unnecessary but deleterious.
  #31  
Old 11-08-2018, 08:08 PM
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Another vote for a Miata. The only caveat I'd mention is that you should pay attention to the models/years if you're at all on the tall side*. My aunt has a '90-something Miata. I'm 5'9'' and can touch the ceiling with my head, IIRC, I can even see over the top of the windshield if I want. Her (ex) husband is well over 6', maybe 6'5'' or so. I believe he had to have the top down to ride in it.
It is, however, a fun car to drive. It has a lot more get up and go than any of my (manual) Hondas have ever had. I was surprised when I made the wheel squeal the first time I pulled away from the curb.


*Checking google for tall people in Miatas to make sure I wasn't misremembering that, there appears to be a huge difference from year to year and model to model as far as headroom and legroom are concerned.
  #32  
Old 11-08-2018, 08:48 PM
Textual Innuendo Textual Innuendo is offline
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The Z4 always looked to me like a Miata that went to the gym and got some additional muscle definition.
You know, I've thought along the same lines! I've always thought of it as "like a Miata, if Miatas looked good" and described it as a tarted-up Miata.

But yeah, I can definitely get behind the "it's like a Miata that's been hitting the gym a lot" analogy.

For a dash of verisimilitude, that extra muscle comes with an extra 500 pounds in curb-weight (but the extra 80 horses does help offset the weight), so truly it's the meathead of the tiny convertible segment.
  #33  
Old 11-08-2018, 10:12 PM
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Miata
Is
Always
The
Answer.

Lock the thread.
  #34  
Old 11-08-2018, 10:20 PM
Lamoral Lamoral is online now
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The thing about Miatas is that they're SO common. I don't doubt that they're fun and great cars, but I'd like something that would turn heads a bit more, which is why I'm thinking MR2 or MG.

What kind of maintenance headaches would I be looking at with an MG? It's a British car so I know there are going to be some.
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Old 11-08-2018, 10:26 PM
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Karmann-Ghia?
  #36  
Old 11-08-2018, 10:34 PM
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The thing about Miatas is that they're SO common. I don't doubt that they're fun and great cars, but I'd like something that would turn heads a bit more, which is why I'm thinking MR2 or MG.
I dunno. I wouldn’t say anything discussed in this thread is a major head-turner. To most people, these cars just look old, and not in a rare, vintage sort of way.

I had a car that most would describe as a head-turner. One of the first Lotus Elises in the PNW. What it got me was the attention of teenage boys (who wanted to know how fast it was) and old men (who wanted to tell me about their Lotus/Triumph/Healey/whatever from back in the day).

Quote:
What kind of maintenance headaches would I be looking at with an MG? It's a British car so I know there are going to be some.
As a guy that was the chairman of a British car club in the PNW for a few years, let me say this. The Miata is for someone who enjoys driving. The MG (any vintage British car, really) is for someone who enjoys working on cars.
  #37  
Old 11-09-2018, 12:10 AM
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As a guy that was the chairman of a British car club in the PNW for a few years, let me say this. The Miata is for someone who enjoys driving. The MG (any vintage British car, really) is for someone who enjoys working on cars.
As the owner of an MG and an S2000, I endorse this.

The last MGB sold in this country is almost 39 years old...
  #38  
Old 11-09-2018, 12:17 AM
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The thing about Miatas is that they're SO common. I don't doubt that they're fun and great cars, but I'd like something that would turn heads a bit more, which is why I'm thinking MR2 or MG.

What kind of maintenance headaches would I be looking at with an MG? It's a British car so I know there are going to be some.
Where are you located? Based on my son-in-laws recent MGB purchase, it makes a difference.
  #39  
Old 11-09-2018, 05:59 AM
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I'd like a small roadster to drive, not as my primary car, just as a 'toy.' I would like to spend no more than $5,000. It must be manual, and ideally, convertible. I am willing to accept some rough edges and minor maintenance annoyances. I do not want a money pit. I can accept a small money "hole".
Some off-beat options are Honda Civic Del Sol, Mercedes-Benz SLK. and Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky. There's always the post-2000 Mustang and C4-generation Corvette, too.

And just sayin', five grand buys a pretty nice motorcycle. :-)
  #40  
Old 11-09-2018, 07:46 AM
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Some off-beat options are Honda Civic Del Sol, Mercedes-Benz SLK. and Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky. There's always the post-2000 Mustang and C4-generation Corvette, too.

And just sayin', five grand buys a pretty nice motorcycle. :-)
Can you still get parts for Pontiacs or Saturns. I don't know enough about them to know if the use the same parts as other GM cars or you're going to be digging through scrapyards every time you need a new window regulator or headlight lens.
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Old 11-09-2018, 07:51 AM
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  #42  
Old 11-09-2018, 08:37 AM
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Miata
Is
Always
The
Answer.
It's true. It meets your specs and there are a million of them on the secondary market so the cost isn't that high.

Here's a recent list.
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Old 11-09-2018, 08:39 AM
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Karmann-Ghia?
No way under $5k in any kind of drivable shape.
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  #44  
Old 11-09-2018, 10:34 AM
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Someone upthread mentioned the C4 generation Corvette and that could be an intriguing option. I don't believe they made a convertible model until 87, but 84-86 all have the removable targa top. C4s get a bad rap in some circles but they're still pretty quick and I actually think they look sharp.

And you can probably a decent running C4 Vette around the $5k range. Not gonna be a show car, but none of these are at $5k.

Last edited by Barkis is Willin'; 11-09-2018 at 10:35 AM.
  #45  
Old 11-09-2018, 10:45 AM
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My choice would be anything MG and Triumph as a secondary. I have experience with and connections to both brands. But those people who said Miata have a point.
  #46  
Old 11-09-2018, 11:02 AM
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The Miata is for someone who enjoys driving. The MG (any vintage British car, really) is for someone who enjoys working on cars.
Truer words were never spoke.
  #47  
Old 11-09-2018, 11:33 AM
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And just sayin', five grand buys a pretty nice motorcycle. :-)
That is the truth! If I only had 5K to spend, I wouldn't burn it on some old car. I get my motorcycle first, then if there's money left over for a fun car, all the better.
  #48  
Old 11-09-2018, 12:51 PM
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No, it's tough to find a halfway decent S2000 for under $10k. At $5k, you're probably looking at a salvage title with a lot of issues.
I just took one in on trade at the Subaru store where I work. We've got it online for $19,000. It's a base 2004 with 60k miles on it. It is SWEET to drive, but those things hold their value so well. And are scarce, and unmodified ones scarcer still.

Link: https://www.busamsubaru.com/used/Hon...55cd5e4514.htm
  #49  
Old 11-09-2018, 12:55 PM
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FoieGrasIsEvil FoieGrasIsEvil is offline
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Also, I agree about the Miata. I have driven several and they have all been an absolute riot to drive. Talk about a grin generating machine.

Another car you might look out for is an older, higher mileage convertible 'Vette. Also very fun cars. I'm thinking something from the early 1990's. It's actually kinda hard to find a 'Vette with a ton of miles on them, most are pretty low miles because they're Summer cars.
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Old 11-09-2018, 12:59 PM
justanothermike justanothermike is offline
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How has nobody recommended the Pontiac Fiero yet? Lol. For all I know they were great cars, but mid 80's cars weren't often super great.

Miatas have been highly recommended by everyone I've ever known that had one.

Last edited by justanothermike; 11-09-2018 at 01:00 PM.
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